The Digital Dine Out: How Consumer Preferences Are Changing the Industry

Drive-thru dining came of age in California in the 1950s. By the 1970s, major fast food franchises nationwide began to install drive-thru windows to address the rapidly growing pace of family life and increasing demands for convenience and choice. Things today haven’t changed too much.

According to The NPD Group, drive-thru sales account for 57 percent of business at burger restaurants, 40 percent at Mexican-themed, and 38 percent at restaurants that serve chicken. In fact, Americans make 12.4 billion trips to the drive-thru every year, so meals on-the-go are here to stay.

What has changed: consumer expectations.  Again.

While drive-thru dining using to be the penultimate symbol of convenience, now it’s about offering the choice of drive thru, pickup or delivery and ensuring they are each equally convenient.

In the case of delivery, customers won’t tolerate waiting around without knowing where there order is and when it will arrive – or plating the guessing game of when their carry-out order will be ready to go. And they most certainly don’t care to hear about how hard it is to prevent a hamburger bun from being soggy or fries from being cold. That dine-in quality experience is non-negotiable, no matter that they won’t actually be dining in or at the restaurant.

In the case of curbside pickup, they don’t want to wait in long drive-through lines. They don’t want to yell their order to people. They want to drive up, pick up their food and move along.

Customers expect to be able to place orders on their mobile devices – or any device for that matter. New digital ordering options empower consumers with greater flexibility around how they can place their order, where they can receive it and where they can consume their meal.

Restaurant operations must become dynamic in response

The revolution may be happening quickly with consumers, but there seems to be a bit of a lag when it comes to restaurants. Less than half (45.1 percent) of quick-serve restaurants offer a mobile app for in-store pick-ups and only 1.3 percent offer a curbside pickup option through their app. This is the very definition of a missed opportunity for restaurants who want to grow their business. When Starbucks posts numbers that mobile orders accounted for 27 percent of their sales, it’s clear that this is a profitable strategy.

Challenges ahead

It’s no secret the food delivery business is booming, with some restaurants creating and curating their own experience and others relying on third party services that are gaining market share quickly. However, there’s a reason why more restaurants aren’t adopting curbside options. It’s because it’s not easy to coordinate food prep with customer pick-up. Enter Glympse, which is helping restaurants address both popular delivery and pickup formats. By leveraging location sharing from Glympse to either alert delivery customers when their order will arrive, or to get customers to share their location for perfectly timed takeout order, restaurants are rising to the new challenge of more choices and convenience without losing an inch on quality of food and experience.

Glympse for food delivery and curbside pickup

Glympse’s powerful platform offers location sharing as a service, including APIs and SDKs that enable app developers to integrate location sharing into their mobile ordering. Location data can also be integrated into restaurant operations software. Most importantly, features control and limit the length of time a location is shared, maintaining the user’s privacy. Glympse also provides a custom- branded web-based map, route-view and ETA that consumers can access through any web browser. Notifications via SMS and email drive users to the web experience, so they know exactly when to check back for the latest update on the status of their order.

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